Sunday, January 8, 2012


Sure, why not keep the lists coming?

It's been a while since I posted a new 30s list. This one's been a long time coming for me. The only list I have to finish after this is 1930, but I'm waiting to see one more before that's done. Here's 1934 for now, a strong year for comedies:

1. The Thin Man (van Dyke)
2. L’Atalante (Vigo)
3. It Happened One Night (Capra)
4. The Scarlet Empress (von Sternberg)
5. Twentieth Century (Hawks)
6. The Black Cat (Ulmer)
7. The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock)
8. The Gay Divorcee (Sandrich)
9. It’s a Gift (McLeod)
10. Manhattan Melodrama (van Dyke)

I don't have a lot to say about these films because I'm a little tired of writing today, but here's some quick, offhand sentences about each:

THE THIN MAN, the first in a truly great and consistently charming series, is the funniest and sharpest of the bunch and serves as a wonderful introduction to my favorite screen couple of all time–Nick and Nora Charles (if you include Asta, then make it my favorite triumvirate). Audiences and the studio alike knew how magical this pair was, which is why the series had such longevity and was so successful. Once you see the first, you won't even hesitate to want to watch the rest of the series, and you won't be disappointed (I think they are all worth seeing). The first probably has the best murder plot as well, but it's still only an excuse for Powell and Loy to spout one-liners and charm the hell out of us. There's really no point beating around it–it's one of the best and most consistently enjoyable comedies ever produced in Hollywood.

L'ATALANTE is absolutely beautiful. One of the great examples of French Poetic Realism–a movement, like this film, where you feel the images in your bones.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is Capra's best behind IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Very funny, and one of the first classic films I ever saw.

THE SCARLET EMPRESS is my favorite von Sternberg film. Dietrich is beautiful in it, but the real stars are VS's visual flair and the incredibly ornate sets. The detail is astonishing.

TWENTIETH CENTURY is Hawks being quite funny and sharp, and has Carole Lombard looking more beautiful than ever.

THE BLACK CAT is probably the most fucked up horror film of the 30s. It packs as many wild and taboo subjects in just over an hour of screentime that it can. Awesome skin grating sequence too.

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH has the master starting to use his trademark set pieces with real skill and develop his storytelling ability to grander heights. I thought this was great, but I did watch a crappy print of it that really needed to be cleaned up. I kept screaming for Marty Scorsese's help while I was watching it.

THE GAY DIVORCEE is equally as charming as the other Astaire/Rogers films I've seen. Like the Berkeley musicals, it's probably all just an excuse to dance and sing, but it makes a fine spectacle nonetheless.

IT'S A GIFT is W.C. Fields and some great gags. What else is there to say?

MANHATTAN MELODRAMA is a film I think that Brandon likes quite a bit more than me, but I still really enjoyed it. I enjoy anything Powell and Loy (and Gable), though I was expecting a comedy (despite the title) based on the Thin Man movies. Instead it's more of a crime drama that you would expect to see Cagney pop up in. Still, nothing wrong with that.

I'm gonna try to post 1944 and 1951 lists as soon as possible.

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